Why Minnesota has a sexually dangerous person law

The Minnesota Court of Appeals today provided a graphic account of why Minnesota locks up people after they’ve served their prison time under the theory that they might offend again.

The court ruled today that a man who has raped several women in the past, can be committed under the state’s program just for taking steps that, while not sexually violent under the state’s definition, mirror his pattern of behavior that preceded his previous violent behavior.

And what a past Timothy Joseph Crosby has. He raped two women in the ’70s, got out of prison, then tried to rape another woman, and was sent to prison for a fairly short period of time.

The Court of Appeals today didn’t bury the man’s past in legal niceties, describing his days of freedom after his first incarceration …

Before long, in April 1983, Crosby assembled a kit consisting of a gag, a blindfold, and rope, and then he drove around until he found a girl hitchhiking. He drove her to her requested destination, but then he put a knife to her ribs. He planned to blindfold and bind her hands before driving her to a rural area and raping her. And he imagined hanging her by her hands from the ceiling to facilitate his planned sexual assault. But she resisted, screaming and fighting for the knife. She finally wrested the knife from Crosby, cut him on the hand, and escaped from his car.

Crosby was reported and returned to the Minnesota Security Hospital in 1983 for more treatment. He continued to fantasize about rape and to constitute an “extremely high risk” to reoffend, but he was given passes to shop in St. Peter and the Twin Cities area. In early 1986, he again told treatment providers that he was no longer engaging in sexually violent fantasies, and he was provisionally discharged in June 1987.

If you’re keeping score, that’s just four years of incarceration for a man who’d already raped two women.

The Court of Appeals continued…

The month after his June 1987 release, Crosby brought a 21-year-old prostitute to his apartment. He choked her, tied her to a bed, taped her mouth and eyes shut, and raped her six or seven times over several hours. The victim eventually freed herself from the restraints and escaped after Crosby left her momentarily unattended. She tore through concealing cardboard and then broke through the window, which Crosby had nailed shut. She crawled outside and was found fleeing naked, bleeding from her hands and feet from their having been wired behind her back. Crosby pleaded guilty to third-degree criminal sexual conduct for this. Crosby’s plea agreement in that 1987 case is the focal point of this appeal. In it, the state dismissed a count of false imprisonment, agreed not to seek an upward departure at sentencing, and, most important here, agreed not to file a petition seeking Crosby’s commitment as a sexual psychopath or as a mentally-ill and dangerous person. The district court sentenced him to 41 months in prison. Crosby declined sex-offender treatment.

As part of the plea deal, Crosby got only a 41-month prison sentence and a promise from prosecutors wouldn’t try to commit him as a sexual psychopath or as a mentally-ill and dangerous person.

In 2000, he was fired as a custodian at the University of Minnesota because he printed pornographic material.

But in 2009, a story about him in a newspaper prompted a complaint from a woman who said her 17-year-old daughter was spending time with Crosby. So the cops searched his apartment.

They found several trunks containing a hacksaw blade and an array of newspaper articles about violent sexual assaults, including rapes, kidnappings, murders, and serial killings. They also found hundreds of pornographic videotapes, magazines, and books depicting circumstances and conduct resembling Crosby’s past violent sex crimes.

They also found books on how to rape and torture women. He also hired a 17-year old girl to have sex with a 24-year old woman while he watched.

For that, he got a two-year prison term.

But the judge let him remain free if he promised to follow directives for his sex-offender treatment.

Minnesota petitioned then to commit him as a sexually dangerous person but the Court of Appeals at the time overturned the attempt because “neither the probation agent nor the district court had specifically ordered Crosby into sex-offender treatment, making the revocation for failure to participate in treatment a violation of Crosby’s due process rights.”

In May 2011, however, a district court ordered him held until it determined whether he could be committed. Crosby argued, however, that the 1987 plea bargain prevented the state from trying to lock him up.

Today, the Court of Appeals rejected that argument, and it ruled what might have been obvious decades ago…

The district court was not presented with these facts in a vacuum; it received them in the context of Crosby’s history of already having engaged–repeatedly–in the kind of violent and criminal sexual conduct depicted in the disturbing material that, apparently, once again captivated him. The district court was aware that this same self-tempting, fantasy conduct had accompanied Crosby’s previous predatory sexual behavior. These facts do not necessarily prove, as Crosby maintains, “that he can be sexual and concurrently control his actions.” At the very least their description in the commitment petition along with Crosby’s past criminal activity alerts the district court that the question of renewed commitment is ripe. Crosby insists that this new conduct is not of the commitment-triggering violent nature of his former conduct because he had not acted on his fantasies. But having placed himself again on the self-tempting slippery edge, Crosby has no statutory reason to demand that the district court must wait for another fall before it entertains the state’s civil-commitment petition.

So Timothy Crosby is off the streets.

Here’s today’s full opinion.

  • Kassie

    I hate, hate, hate this law. Basically it amounts to locking someone up with a trial and throwing away the key. Only one person has ever left the sex offender program in Minnesota. I doubt anyone else will leave in the next 5 years.

    If Minnesotans want sex offenders to be locked up for life, they need to change the laws around how long sex offenders are sentenced for. But having them serve their sentences, just to be locked up for the remainder of their lives is wrong. The only reason this has been overthrown and unconstitutional by the MN courts is because they let that one guy out, and I’m confident they let that one guy out for that reason.

  • Bob

    The Bible says rapist are suppose to be put to death So this law is stupid.

  • BJ

    Actually the Bible says that a rapist can pay the father and then make the girl his bride.

    “If a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found, then the man who lay with her shall give to the father fifty sheckels of silver, and she shall be his wife, and he may not put her away all of his days.” (Deut: 22; 28-29)

    Good thing we are not actually a christian state.

  • Sarah Marie

    As a survivor of sexual assult, I am glad we have these kinds of laws. The signs of this kind of predatory and psychopathic behavior are there and we as a society need to spotlight them to ensure the safety of women and children.

  • Bob Collins

    //Actually the Bible says that a rapist can pay the father and then make the girl his bride.

    Only for rapes in the city. In the country, the guy dies.

  • Christin

    I don’t know if people who rape & sexually assault other people are capable of being reformed, although I know there are programs that do offer therapy aimed to do just that in some states. What I do know is that:

    1) Prevention is economically more viable and the more ethical choice but we don’t fund enough theraputic programs for survivors, even for kids who experienced trauma

    2) The Rape and Sexual Abuse Center at NIP is struggling to keep its doors open

    3) Congresss failed to reauthorize VAWA which offers vital resources and training to law enforcement to help people coping with abuse

    4) Most perpetrators were abused themselves. It is easy to dehumanize them for their inhumane acts, but lets remember that perhaps an intervention could have prevented them from growing up to hurt others so that we can get out of this cycle in the future

  • Sarah Marie

    It saddens me that this discussion turned to the Bible; a 3500 year old work of fiction simply does not offer any relative information on how we today can protect women and children from rape and sexual assault.

    And in reference Christin’s comment, I ask, does this mean we are a society that silently enables violence against women? Lawmakers have made it clear protecting women and children from sexual violence is not a major priority because we believe this myth that “we’re all equal now and everything is fine;” at least that is the attitude I have observed in growing up in a Post-Second Wave Feminist world.

    I’ve also been asking this question for a long time: What can we do to engage men in being a part of the solutions to prevent violence against women and children?

    But ultimately at the end of the day, I hang my head in pain and sorrow because the war on women marches on.

  • Christin

    Sarah Marie, let me say that I am sorry that you were assaulted. Thank you for your courage in speaking out; not enough of us speak up. We should not feel shame and I hope that the more we speak out the less stigmatized we will be. I too am a survivor; I was sexually abused as a child by a parent.

    We are a society that both silently and not-so-silently enables violence against not only women but also children. This is why I am angered at the absence of coverage of the reauthorization of VAWA! If 1 in 3 women are assaulted in their lifetimes, why isn’t this front page news?

    In regard to the justice system, I tend to think of restoration more as therapy, prevention, and emotional health than I do punitive action. Throwing someone in jail does nothing to help a child grow, to teach them to cope with trauma, to manage PTSD, to build healthy futures. Obviously the justice system is an important partner in this work, but we must not forget that survivors have whole lives ahead of them and need support to heal. Children grow up to be the men and women that abuse, but they certainly do not start that way. I strongly believe that the Truth of the “war on women” is that we are at war with ourselves. If we hate our mothers, our daughters, our children, and our sisters, we hate ourselves. Rape is an act of hate; not of lust. Yes, the abusers’ behavior is monsterous, and so is our culture of violence. The prison system perpetuates that violence so I don’t know that a “lock em up and throw away the key” approach is appropriate in light of the blatant racism and class disparities institutionalized into our justice system. As a survivor of abuse I understand the need for the offenders to be prosecuted and for our children to be safe. I also understand that I want committment of an offender to a facility to be a meaningful act of justice and an act of safety, not a dark hole that could be abused. This all gets very complex as we see the impact all these issues have upon one another…

  • John E. Roby

    Life behind bars without the possibility of parole is a humane option. The death penalty is against the teachings of Christ, in the New Testament.